home cooking for kapha season
posted: December 30, 2013
Work with—not against—your physical and mental ‘metabolism’ this season
Everything is connected, the sages of Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, told us 5000 years ago. It’s an adage that still holds true and Ayurveda’s intuitive insights are more relevant today than ever.
Take the seasons, for example. How do you feel in the summer? Energized and open, ready to embrace the world, or cozy and cocooning and wanting to curl up with a book and a glass of red wine? Well, that’s your external environment directly impacting how you feel. It’s a straightforward energy exchange.
Winter, according to Ayurveda, is a time of ‘kapha,’ when the earth and water elements are predominant. Earth and water imply heaviness, calm, slowness and sometimes lethargy when out of balance. Think about a soft blanket of snow falling or incessant rain, damp and darkness. It’s enough to make you want to hibernate.
Ayurveda looks at food through the same lens, and this is where it gets interesting. Most of the foods we tend to consume during the cool, dark kapha winter months happen to be foods that are also described as kapha foods. They are high in fat and are usually sweet—not necessarily in taste, but in the effect they have on your body.
Think of kapha as a soft, hug around your midriff. That’s why those cheese platters, maple roasted sweet potatoes, gratins and helpings of pumpkin pie help you feel that food coma so easily. You’re ingesting sweet, heavy food in a season where that sweet, heavy quality already abides in the environment itself.
If you’re one of those people blessed with a fiery metabolism and immense reserves of energy, you may be fine with some extra sweetness around the holidays, but if you notice that you do feel lethargic, Ayurveda offers 10 simple tips to stay balanced and happy, sans the extra weight.
1. Awake early and sleep early. Our metabolism is at its most efficient when we follow the natural rhythms of the day and night.
2. Upon waking, drink hot water with lemon to kick start your body’s natural cleansing process.
3. Dry brush your body, with short brushstrokes from the extremities to your heart after your morning bath to stimulate circulation and cleanse your lymphatic system.
4. Give yourself a quick ‘abhyanga’ oil massage. Use sesame oil in the winter if you notice that you have cold hands and feet. Take a tablespoon of oil and using your hands apply it over your body in short, gentle strokes, from the extremities to your centre. The warmth of the oil revs your circulation and you calm your nervous system with the healing power of touch.
5. Begin your day with food that will ‘slow burn’ so that you feel full longer. A simple combination of protein, whole grains and healthy fats is ideal. (Try some of our recipes, below. They put cozy but clean straight into your favourite bowl.) Eat your main meal when the sun is strongest, i.e. midday.
6. Look for nourishment and sweetness in aspects of your life beyond food, such as enriching conversations, leisurely baths and quiet. Winter—kapha time—is ideal for going inward.
7. Savour soups and stews with lentils, organic meats and organic veggies. These are much easier on our digestive systems, especially at a time when our digestive fire (known in Ayurveda as ‘agni’) is lower than it is during summer.
8. Ease up on the dairy. Milk is a high kapha food, and you may notice that you will get fewer colds or congestion during the winter if you decrease your dairy intake. If you do choose to drink milk or eat milk products balance them with warming spices, such as cayenne, ginger, black pepper, cardamom or turmeric. Think warm chai, not cold milk out of the fridge.
9. Remember, everything in moderation is fine. Drink the wine, but don’t let it drink you!
10. Breathe and move every day. Yoga will do nicely.
Insiya is a Blissology yoga teacher, Ayurveda practitioner and writer who lives by the salty ocean in Vancouver, Canada and Bali. You can learn more about her at Yogue online.